PAVILION — In the attempt to fill a multi-county void, Jennifer Noble of Craigs Creamery launched FarmDrop of Western NY.

FarmDrop was initially founded in Blue Hill, Maine. It connects farmers and consumers while providing contactless pick-up of fresh, locally grown and produced food through online ordering.

The effort was assisted by funding from ReFED, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending food loss and waste across the U.S. food system

“At the beginning of the pandemic, Natural Upcycling, a food waste collection business (based in Linwood), applied for a grant from ReFED when we saw the first signs of disruption in the supply chain, and dairy farmers were beginning to dump milk,” Noble said. “Through the ReFED grant, we were able to bottle milk and give it away for free ... FarmDrop also received a grant from ReFED during that same time so they could get extra support in limiting food waste in their home area. ReFED said we should work together — so we are.

“… We really felt that after more than 12 months of not seeing people that we could do a better job of supporting our local producers and keeping our dollars in our community,” she continued.

FarmDrop prompts farmers/vendors to upload their products and manage everything from inventory to product photos and pricing. From there, consumers purchase products from the site and pick up their order at a designated location and time.

“I simply aggregate the orders each Thursday on pick-up days and seek out new and unique offerings to further grow the FarmDrop shopping experience …,” Noble said. “FarmDrop is like our own local Instacart and farmers market, all in one.

“The only difference is our site is only live four days a week — Saturday through Tuesday — so our producers can provide the freshest products possible.”

Customers can read about the farms they’re buying from and have direct access to them. On Thursdays, baked goods arrive warm and produce is sometimes picked as few as 15 minutes before it arrives for aggregating.

Orders can be placed on farmdrop.us from 9 a.m. Saturdays to 11:59 p.m. Tuesdays. Pick-up locations, which are available on Thursdays, are Dublin Corners Farm Brewery, in Linwood, and Clover Oak Heritage Acres, in Batavia.

Noble intends to maintain connections within a 30-minute drive to pick-up locations.

“We have another Market Hub in Nunda and I meet the manager for that location in the middle, so we can swap products sold by producers cross-listed on both sites,” Noble said. “If a producer lives closer to Nunda, they have the option to deliver to Nunda and we’ll take it from there.”

Noble also works with producers like Arbor Hill, in Naples, Ontario County, that have shelf-stable offerings such as grape gummies and sauerkraut.

“The ultimate goal is to support local and maintain awareness of our carbon footprint,” said Noble.

Mary Beckendorf, of Riverview Farms, in Fillmore, utilizes FarmDrop and has seen significant growth in her business since she began using the site in July.

“It has been a game changer,” she said. “Being a producer with no retain front and who doesn’t work the farmer market circuit, this connects us with consumers so easily. To add to that, they aren’t geographically consumers I necessarily would have targeted. Our USDA cut pork sales simply wouldn’t be happening without it, and through the platform we have gained roughly 40 new unique customers.”

Farmers interested in using FarmDrop are advised to know FarmDrop is an L3C, which is a low-profit business. The 5 percent fee charged to farmers provides online tech support and each vendor/farmer has a Stripe account to accept card payments, so there is a credit card fee.

“One benefit of the FarmDrop is the credit card fee is shared across 28 producers, so it’s almost never the full 2.9 percent card processing fee paid by one producer,” Noble said. “On the other side of the transaction, there is a $5 handling fee that a customer pays on their order, which is significantly lower than the market rate. Other than that, there’s no surprises. Everything is very transparent.”

Noble plans to maintain the drop locations year-round with a three-week closure from Dec. 23 to Jan. 13. The service will also be closed on Thanksgiving.

“I highly recommend that local producers and consumers utilize the market,” Beckendorf said. “We sell through the Linwood and Nunda drop locations. It’s so simple.

“We will definitely continue to utilize the drop as our market expands,” she continued. “I would love to open a hub in Fillmore or Rushford someday. It’s a very scalable concept that has unlimited possibilities to connect consumers to the local food supply chain demands.” Beckendorf hopes to see FarmDrop continue to expand. She said it’s an invaluable asset to her business.

FarmDrop is now offering delivery on Fridays. The delivery fee is based on proximity to Linwood with a limited radius for now.

The Friday option will gradually grow as FarmDrop continues to expand.

Since it’s WNY inception this year, FarmDrop has seen a great deal of success.

“It’s really brought our community together and provided a sense of normalcy after a very disruptive 18 months,” Noble said. “Having our main pick-up site at Dublin Corners Farm Brewery has also helped bring everyone together for a fun and causal happy hour opportunity to express their creativity and try new things, whether in the bakery or in their greenhouse.”

Those interested can join the mailing list at https://farmdrop.us/market/linwoodwny/.

“Entering this space has also opened other doors and connections for our producers beyond FarmDrop for even greater distribution beyond my capabilities,” said Noble. “Orders continue to grow as a whole, especially as more pick-up sites launch. Batavia and Livonia are a pick-up location, and I hope to continue to grow locations into 2022.

“We softly launched FarmDrop in Linwood,” she continued. “Many customers are now on an every-other week cycle. I see this e-commerce space as the way of the future, and in my research when deciding whether or not FarmDrop was the way to go, the more I read, the more I realized we simply have to do it.”

For more information visit, farmdrop.us, check out their Facebook page at Western New York FarmDrop, or on Instagram @wnyfarmdrop.

In addition to facilitating FarmDrop, Noble’s focus is Craigs Creamery, which will be offering holiday boxes from now through December. The boxes can be purchased in bulk by producers, or individually by customers.

“We know the supply chain continues to be disrupted and the cost of everything keeps increasing,” she said. “When you buy local, products will never be out of stock because a truck didn’t arrive. Please keep us in mind for a consumable gift this holiday season. We will have a great mix of local products in each box.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1